Gender bias on Wikipedia

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Wikipedia editors are predominantly male.

Gender bias is one of the major criticisms of Wikipedia. As an encyclopedia which originated in the United States, Wikipedia reflects academic bias due to its reliance on what it refers to as "reliable sources". The gender bias of Wikipedia is connected with the fact that the majority of editors are male,[1][2] and coverage of articles about men and male-related subjects is generally more extensive than coverage of articles about women and female-related subjects.[3] There have been attempts to fix the gender gap,[4] including the introduction of VisualEditor,[5] which have as yet been unable to effectively bridge the gender imbalance.

Gender bias in articles[edit]

Wikipedia has been claimed to have more detail in articles about men, with the rate of coverage of females on average, around 100 words less than males on selected articles.[3] It has been suggested that this may be because Wikipedia possesses "... a culture that may be resistant to female participation."[6]

Article selection based on gender bias[edit]

Wikipedia has a longstanding controversy concerning gender bias and sexism which has been associated with the selection of articles which are maintained in the open-source encyclopedia.[7][8][9][10][11][12] Wikipedia has been criticized[7] by some journalists and academics for lacking not only women contributors but also extensive and in-depth encyclopedic attention to many topics regarding gender. The selection of articles maintained in Wikipedia is seen as biased significantly by the non-representative demographic cross-section of editors maintaining Wikipedia who are disproportionally male. An article in The New York Times cites a Wikimedia Foundation study which found that fewer than 13% of contributors to Wikipedia are women. Sue Gardner, previously executive director of the foundation, said that increasing diversity was about making the encyclopedia "as good as it could be." Factors the article cited as possibly discouraging women from editing included the "obsessive fact-loving realm," associations with the "hard-driving hacker crowd," and the necessity to be "open to very difficult, high-conflict people, even misogynists."[8]


Besides "Western" academic bias, causes of the gender bias on Wikipedia have been found to be failure to attract and retain female editors, thereby losing the "female voice" in content disputes or in content creation. Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, provides a few reasons, offered by female Wikipedia editors, as to why this is the case.[13] These include

  • a simple lack of user-friendliness in the editing process;
  • not having enough free time;
  • lack of self-confidence;
  • aversion to conflict and a disinterest in participating in lengthy edit wars;
  • belief that their contributions will be changed or deleted;
  • claims to an air of misogyny or hyper-sexualism;
  • In Wikipedias where the language is not English, women users find the lack of female pronouns off-putting;
  • a general lack of a sense of inclusion and openness.

Lam et al.[6] suggest that there may be a culture which is non-inclusive of women on Wikipedia, which may be due to some suggestions that less than 25% of Wikipedia readers are female, a disparity in male-to-female centric topics represented and edited, the tendency for female users to be more active in the social and community aspects of Wikipedia, continued reversions or edits on female-submitted information, or too much controversy. Another potential reason is that public thought forums in general reflect this sort of gender disparity, with a roughly 15% female to 85% male user base.[14]


  1. ^ "WIKIPEDIA EDITORS STUDY: RESULTS FROM THE EDITOR SURVEY, APRIL 2011". Wikipedia. April 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  2. ^ Knibbs, Kate. "Chipping away at Wikipedia's gender bias, one article at a time". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 30 April 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Reagle, Joseph; Lauren Rhue. "Gender Bias in Wikipedia and Britannica". International Journal of Communication 5. 
  4. ^ "Wikistorming". FemTechNet. 
  5. ^ Huang, Keira (11 August 2013). "Wikipedia fails to bridge gender gap". 
  6. ^ a b Lam, Shyong K.; Uduwage, Anuradha; Dong, Zhenhua; Sen, Shilad; Musicant, David R.; Terveen, Loren; Riedl, John. "WP:Clubhouse? An Exploration of Wikipedia’s Gender Imbalance". WikiSym'11. 
  7. ^ a b Cassell, Justine (February 4, 2011). "Editing Wars Behind the Scenes". New York Times. 
  8. ^ a b Noam Cohen, "Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia's Contributor List," The New York Times. Found at The New York Times, January 31, 2011.
  9. ^ "Wikipedia's Women Problem". 2013-04-29. Retrieved 2013-11-19. 
  10. ^ Wikipedia's Sexism Toward Women Novelists
  11. ^ Dunn, Gaby (2013-05-01). "Does Sexism Lurk?". Retrieved 2013-11-19. 
  12. ^ Zandt, Deanna. "Yes, Wikipedia is Sexist". Retrieved 2013-11-19. 
  13. ^ Gardner, Sue (19 February 2011). "Nine Reasons Why Women Don't Edit Wikipedia, In Their Own Words". 
  14. ^

External links[edit]